Outgoing Netherlands captain Peter Borren has said he decided to not just step down but also retire altogether in order to give up-and-coming youngsters the best chance to gain experience under Pieter Seelaar leading into the next two long-term targets for Dutch cricket: qualification for the 2020 World T20 and success in the 13-team ODI League.
“It was a good time for me but also for the team,” Borren told ESPNcricinfo a day after retiring with immediate effect at age 34, ending a 12-year career for Netherlands. “I’ve been captain for eight or nine years. There’s nothing more certain in life than change and having a new captain is a good idea and it maybe would be difficult for Pieter with me hanging around. We’ve got 18 months now, quite a long time until those qualifiers and it’s a good time for him to settle in, to stamp his mark on the team and I think he’ll do a great job. From the KNCB perspective, they were pretty keen for a fresh start and I didn’t disagree with them.
“There’s no way that I want this to be a sad time. The Netherlands cricket team have got a fantastic bunch of guys. Piet’s gonna be a great captain. He’s got a lot of experience and is well-respected within the group. I will be following these boys closely and I reckon they’ll make waves. They’ve got two years before the [ODI League] and they don’t want to be the 13th place team. If they can work hard, there’s a hell of a lot of potential there, a good group of young fast bowlers, young batsmen who have to step up and fill positions. I think I’m leaving Dutch cricket in a better state than when I turned up.”
Borren took over the captaincy from Jeroen Smits in 2010 and led Netherlands to some of their biggest victories on the world stage, helping to produce a repeat of their World T20 win over England in 2009 with another in 2014 to progress to the Super 10 stage. However, after the team’s streak of three straight World Cup appearances was broken in 2014 and with it the loss of ODI status, Borren’s finest achievement may have been rallying the Dutch side back into the new 13-team ODI League just three years later. It is a feat that shouldn’t be taken for granted when looking at how far Kenya has fallen – WCL Division Three – after losing ODI status at the same juncture in New Zealand four years ago.
“The big turnaround, we had three years of bloody awesome cricket where we won just about everything,” Borren said. “The T20 Qualifying tournament, going to the Super 10 or main stage of the T20 World Cup [in 2014], won World Cricket League Division Two, won World Cricket League Division One. As a captain, to lead that, which was quite a phenomenal run for Dutch cricket, that’s definitely my proudest achievement.
“On the other side of that, as a highlight, it’s hard to go past our [World] T20 wins, really. We’ve always been a pretty good T20 team in my career and that’s where we’ve played on the big stage and beat a couple of big boys. Lord’s 2009 and Sylhet when we beat Ireland (they chased 190 in 13.5 overs to qualify for the Super 10s), that was pretty special. Going through the main phase and giving South Africa and New Zealand tough games and then beating England at the end, those are the memories that stick to my head.”
Tweets in the last 24 hours from Borren’s adversaries applauding his career show the respect he gained, through both word and deed, wearing the aegis for not just the Netherlands team but Associate cricket as a whole. Various Associate sparring partners over the years – Phil Simmons, Grant Bradburn, Charlie Burke, Kevin O’Brien, Preston Mommsen, Kyle Coetzer, Paras Khadka, Sandeep Lamichhane, Rohan Mustafa, Anshuman Rath – took to social media to pay tribute to Borren with the list extending out to captains or coaches from Kenya, Uganda and Vanuatu.
Borren says getting in front of the microphone and being a vocal critic of policies that have reduced opportunities for Associate countries at major ICC global events is not something he intentionally strove to do but something he felt was an obligation with his platform as a captain. Even though Netherlands are the beneficiaries of being in the 13-team ODI League, they are the lone Associate, he is frustrated by the sense that “nothing much changes” with regards to the status quo for the majority of Associates.
“If you look at the schedules of teams coming off the World Cup Qualifiers, Netherlands have got hardly any cricket coming up,” Borren said. “If you counterbalance it with the standard of cricket we saw in that tournament, it’s bloody good cricket, a really good standard. To see the 50-over World Cup has ten teams and the massive divide in opportunities for those teams wherever you draw the line, especially when you put your life into it, I’ve always found it really frustrating.
“In terms of making a conscious decision, I’m not really sure but I think it’s important always for Associate captains, coaches, players, when they get a platform to push the cause – because those opportunities don’t come around very often – whether it be a World T20 or World Cup when people might be actually listening for once, we’ve got an awful lot to offer. In my time, there’s been some pretty frustrating decisions that have come out from whoever’s running the game, and when I say whoever’s running the game, not the ICC.”
Borren ends his career as the most capped player for Netherlands in ODI and T20I cricket. Arguably at no point in his career was he ever the best batsman in the team, the stronger suit of his all-round package. But he was a symbol of heart and grit, often carrying the team to victory through sheer force of will, beautifully encapsulated by Jarrod Kimber during the pair of nail-biting wins over Hong Kong last year that effectively made the difference for Netherlands to win the WCL. He hopes he is remembered for the intangible attributes that helped him overcome his self-professed lack of talent.
“I probably wasn’t a very good player when I started. I took over the captaincy when I wasn’t a very good captain. My captaincy developed quite a lot, learned how to manage people. If I look back at my career, that’s what I’m the most proud of. Also, developing as a player. The last three years I’ve been a far better player than I was the first half of my career.
“But I guess it was probably the fight that I showed on the field. I’ll always be someone who wears their heart on their sleeve and I think you can carry a few guys with you when you do that. I’m pretty sure that, and some experience with tactical acumen, when you combine the two you end up winning some close games. The last three or four years and my whole career, I hope I’ve managed to contribute a bit of that with a hard-nosed attitude and competitive nature.”